There’s more to Louisiana than New Orleans and the French Quarter where Creole culture reigns supreme. Head about half an hour west over the Manchac Swamp Bridge, one of the longest over-water bridges in the world, and you’ll find yourself in the Louisiana bayou amongst alligators and other wildlife that call the Manchac Swamp home. This is Cajun country.
In the mid-1700s, Acadians who lived in present-day Nova Scotia, The Maritimes, and parts of Quebec and Maine, were forced by the Brits to leave their homes during an event known as the Great Expulsion which occurred during the French and Indian War. Once banished, many Acadians made their way to Lower Louisiana and settled the region, creating their own unique Cajun French dialect, cuisine, and music. The Acadians were explorers, adventurers, and outdoorsmen which makes perfect sense considering the unadulterated terrain that is the Manchac Swamp.
One could be easily deceived by the serenity of these swamp waters which are lined by moss-draped cypress trees. These waters look placid, but if you could drain the swamp dry, on the swamp’s floor you’d find hundreds of gators trying to keep warm and patiently waiting for the sun to sufficiently heat the water’s surface so they can catch a breather and bask in its rays.
Hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the swamp’s gators in action, we booked a tour with Cajun Pride Swamp Tours and embarked on a mid-morning adventure into the unknown. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any gargantuan gators like some of those pictured on the tour company’s website, but we did manage to spot a few in addition to some of the other wildlife that live in the area.
Here, I’m sharing some images of our journey into the Louisiana bayou…
The final resting place of the residents of the Cajun town of Frenier who lived in this area, many of whom were killed during a storm that left only 22 survivors.
The cypress is Louisiana’s state tree, and its roots thrive in the swamp waters because they’re impervious to rotting.
As the tour went along, we had a sort of show-and-tell on our boat. My youngest nephew was brave enough to hold one of the snakes on board.
My brother with the skull of a wild boar. Our guide said that these animals are quite aggressive. I think our guide ate this one for dinner.
I believe hunters in the area set up makeshift huts like this one to protect themselves from the elements.
Back in the day, hunters and trappers used to live in shacks like this. They’re a little too close to the water’s edge for comfort if you ask me.
This swamp rodent is called a coypu. Could you imagine crossing paths with this thing?!
I believe these are black vultures – thank God I had my zoom lens handy!
More bird spotting – I don’t know what kinds of birds these are.
Meanwhile, back on the boat, our guide passed around a bucket of the most adorable turtles: the painted red ear slider, the river slider, the Louisiana razor (aka, “coot”), and the stink pot turtle. All so precious!
And I got to hold this little fella. He was surprisingly soft. I wouldn’t want to cross paths with him in a few years though!
And just when we started to think that we weren’t going to see any gators, someone on our boat spotted this one in the murky waters. He was so well camouflaged!
Somehow, my nephew’s young eyes were able to spot this owl from a great distance. I was only able to see it with my zoom lens.
A family of cute raccoons
We spotted this gator catching some rays on our way back to shore
Inside the Cajun Pride Swamp Tours gift shop. Notice the gator on the ceiling.
*To learn more about Cajun Pride Swamp Tours, click here.
Have you ever ventured into the swamps and bayous of Louisiana?